Is Sugar ruining our health?
Is sugar ruining our health?: There is no doubt that people enjoy the taste of sugar, whether that’s a sweet drink or a decadent dessert. Most people are aware that sugar is not beneficial for their health, but few are knowledgeable about the exact impacts of sugar on their brains and bodies. In moderation, sugar has little impact on health. However researchers have found that Western sugar-rich diets carry several negative health effects.
Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you’re reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit.
How much sugar is too much?
A new World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline recommend adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars (sugars which are added to food) and naturally occurring sugars, to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
The effects of too much sugar
Sugar causes blood glucose to spike and plummet.
Unstable blood sugar often leads to mood swings, fatigue, headaches and cravings for more sugar. Cravings set the stage for a cycle of addiction in which every new hit of sugar makes you feel better temporarily but, a few hours later, results in more cravings and hunger. On the flip side, those who avoid sugar often report having little or no cravings for sugary things and feeling emotionally balanced and energized.
Sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Large-scale studies have shown that the more high-glycaemic foods (those that quickly affect blood sugar), including foods containing sugar, a person consumes, the higher his risk for becoming obese and for developing diabetes and heart disease
Sugar interferes with immune function.
Research on human subjects is scant, but animal studies have shown that sugar suppresses immune response. More research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms; however, we do know that bacteria and yeast feed on sugar and that when these organisms get out of balance in the body, infections and illness are more likely.
Sugar accelerates ageing.
It even contributes to that tell-tale sign of ageing: sagging skin. Some of the sugar you consume, after hitting your bloodstream, ends up attaching itself to proteins, in a process called glycation. These new molecular structures contribute to the loss of elasticity found in ageing body tissues, from your skin to your organs and arteries. The more sugar circulating in your blood, the faster this damage takes hold.
Sugar causes tooth decay.
Sugar increases stress.
When we’re under stress, our stress hormone levels rise; these chemicals are the body’s fight-or-flight emergency crew, sent out to prepare the body for an attack or an escape. These chemicals are also called into action when blood sugar is low. For example, after a blood-sugar spike, there’s a compensatory dive, which causes the body to release stress hormones. One of the main things these hormones do is raise blood sugar, providing the body with a quick energy boost. The problem is, these helpful hormones can make us feel anxious, irritable and shaky.
Sugar takes the place of important nutrients.
According to USDA data, people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients––especially vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, vitamin B-12, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.
Now that you know the negative impacts refined sugar can have on your body and mind, the first step is getting educated about where sugar lurks—believe it or not, a food need not even taste all that sweet for it to be loaded with sugar. When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide, and be aware that just because something boasts that it is low fat or a “diet” food, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a very high sugar content.
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Weight Management Adviser, Vicki Lunn, Motivation Wexford